SPRINGFIELD -- Federal budget cuts mean the state will have to pay for some high-tech garbage disposal to continue the war on drugs.

SPRINGFIELD -- Federal budget cuts mean the state will have to pay for some high-tech garbage disposal to continue the war on drugs.

The Illinois State Police want to issue an emergency contract to hire a Wheeling firm to continue collecting the hazardous waste produced when drug agents dismantle methamphetamine labs.

SET Environmental Inc. of Wheeling would get the contract, which state police estimate will cost $69,000. The contract would run from now until the end of May.

ISP spokesman Scott Compton said the state will have to make up for cuts made to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Federal funding was eliminated for cleanup across the country on Feb. 23,” Compton said.

State police teams have cleaned up meth lab sites since 2005. A variety of toxic chemicals are used to make meth, including ammonia, ethanol and acetone. The officers who clean up the sites must wear environmental protection suits and breathing apparatus to prevent exposure to the chemicals.

Once a site is cleaned, the debris is hauled to one of eight temporary containers located throughout the state. Federal environmental regulations require that the waste be removed from those containers within 10 days of the lab seizure. It’s that removal that the DEA money once paid for.

The DEA also paid for a contractor to respond directly to meth labs if officers encountered a chemical they couldn’t handle or a very large volume of hazardous material, like an entire tank of anhydrous ammonia.

Compton said a small amount of the money could be restored, but the DEA has said that’s not likely.

State purchasing documents show SET was selected because it already does the disposal work.

Emergency contracts are supposed to be in effect for a maximum of 90 days, although they can be extended. Compton said state police plan to draft bidding documents so that a permanent contractor can be hired.

There should be no interruption of the state’s drug enforcement activity.

The state police have 35 officers assigned to eight teams to investigate methamphetamine labs. The teams seized 457 labs last year.

Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.